Instant Replay: Bullpen implodes, Giants eliminated from NLDS

Instant Replay: Bullpen implodes, Giants eliminated from NLDS

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Through good times and bad, a strong first half and a stunningly awful second half, the Giants tried to find a solution for the ninth inning. They never did, and on Tuesday night the ongoing issue ended their season. 

Five relievers combined to give up four runs in the top of the ninth as the Giants lost 6-5 to the Cubs, ending a record streak of 10 consecutive wins in elimination games. The end came quickly, but it was not surprising. The Giants blew 30 saves in the regular season, the most by a playoff team since saves became an official statistic in 1969. They could not hold the lead in the ninth inning of either of their home playoff games. 

The collapse wasted a brilliant effort from Matt Moore, who was making his third playoff start. 

The Giants have learned that there are two versions of Moore: The one be prone to wildness in short outings, and the one who can look as good as any lefty in the game when his power repertoire is on. Moore brought the good stuff early on Tuesday, allowing just one run — a David Ross homer — through four. 

The Giants manufactured a run off John Lackey in the first, with Denard Span doubling, taking third on Brandon Belt’s fly ball to deep left, and racing home on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly. They put together an extended rally three innings later. The red-hot duo of Conor Gillaspie and Joe Panik put runners on first and third with a pair of singles. A walk of Gregor Blanco loaded the bases with one out, and it appeared Moore was instructed to watch a strikeout and set the stage for Span. He stared at two pitches and then stunned Lackey by pulling a fastball into right field. The RBI was the second of Moore’s career and his first in four years. When Lackey’s foot missed first on the back end of a double-play grounder, the Giants led 3-1. 

A three-base error by Brandon Crawford led to a run in the fifth, but the shortstop came right back and got within an inch of doubling that damage. With Hunter Pence on first, Crawford smashed a fly ball off the very top of the right field wall. He settled for a hard-luck double. Gillaspie’s third single of the night pushed Pence across, and Crawford scored on a sacrifice fly from Panik. 

Moore’s occasional command issues showed up in the sixth, and when the lefty opened the frame with seven straight balls, Derek Law hopped up the dugout steps and sprinted to the bullpen. Kris Bryant hit a flare to right that looked like it would bring the tying run to the plate, but Dexter Fowler — who had walked — read the play wrong and Pence scooped up the single and threw Fowler out at second. Moore turned to the outfield and screamed, “Attaboy, Hunter!” before getting two quick outs to end the threat. 

Moore’s 120th and final pitch was a fastball that froze Fowler for his 10th strikeout. He allowed just two hits in his eight innings, but the Cubs quickly got to work in the ninth. 

Law gave up a single and was promptly pulled. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo and he was also pulled. Sergio Romo gave up an RBI double to Ben Zobrist and he gave way to Will Smith. Pinch-hitter Willson Contreras bounced a single back up the middle, tying the game. 

After a fielder’s choice and error put the go-ahead run on second with one out, Smith handed it off to Hunter Strickland. He fired a 100 mph fastball at Javier Baez with two strikes and it was lined right back up the middle. Jason Heyward raced home for the go-ahead run.

A night after Gillaspie’s heroics, the Giants had no answer for Aroldis Chapman. The team that could never hold a lead in the ninth went down quietly.

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Giants lineup: Nunez scratched, Williamson in left field

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for today's series finale in Chicago:

Giants (20-28)
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Joe Panik (L) 2B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Mac Williamson (R) LF
8. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
9. Jeff Samardzija (R) P (1-5, 4.57 ERA)

Cubs (24-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Miguel Montero (L) C
8. Javier Baez (R) SS
9. Eddie Butler (R) P (1-0, 2.00 ERA)

Giants notes: Growing group of infielders trying to transition to outfield

Giants notes: Growing group of infielders trying to transition to outfield

CHICAGO — It was easy for Giants fans to dream on Wednesday morning when power-hitting prospect Chris Shaw was bumped up to Triple-A. General manager Bobby Evans pumped the brakes a bit in the afternoon. The Giants do not expect Shaw to come up this year, even as a September call-up.

Shaw does, however, join a growing group of infielders trying to transition in Richmond. The closest to the big leagues right now is occasional big leaguer Kelby Tomlinson, who started in center field for the fourth time in five games. Could Tomlinson soon be back as a super-utility player, maybe giving the Giants some coverage in case they part ways with Gorkys Hernandez?

“Not ideally yet,” Evans said. “You’d like for him to get more time out there.”

[PAVLOVIC: Giants promote power-hitting outfield prospect to Triple-A]

Evans said the reports on Tomlinson are that he’s athletic in center and gets good reads. He’s not quite considered a big league option yet, but that’ll be a big part of his future. Tomlinson was joined in the outfield Wednesday by Austin Slater, who will start adding some reps at first with Chris Marrero now in Japan. Slater sounds like he's the next man up at some point. 

Ryder Jones and Jae-Gyun Hwang will also play more first. Jones has played quite a bit of left this season and Evans said the reports on him out there have been good. Hwang will be back in the headlines one way or the other at some point soon. He’s batting .280 with a .298 on-base percentage and three homers, which doesn’t scream promotion. But Hwang does have an opt-out on July 1, so something might have to be done. 

--- Matt Moore gave up two homers to Anthony Rizzo in a 5-4 loss to the Cubs, but this still continued his push in the right direction. In six innings, he gave up four runs, three earned. Not great, but better than it was in April. Moore has three straight quality starts. 

“Earlier in the year there were a couple of gaps in games where I wasn’t competitive,” he said. “I do think the last two or three weeks, I’ve gotten comfortable with the way the ball is coming out.”

--- Eduardo Nuñez extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games, but he came up lame on the play. Nuñez felt tightness near his left knee, right at the bottom of his hamstring. He played the rest of the game, but couldn’t go full speed. He’s confident he’ll be fine. 

--- Denard Span’s thumb is apparently 100 percent, or pretty close. He smacked a long homer, his third in his last 10 games. 

--- Conor Gillaspie (back) and Aaron Hill (forearm) will return on the homestand, possibly as soon as Friday against the Braves. Hunter Pence is further away. Bochy said he’ll need a quick rehab assignment, so it’s probably more likely he’s back the next Friday in Philadelphia. 

--- Bochy said Johnny Cueto was checked a couple of days before his Tuesday start and the trainers will do the same thing before his next start. Cueto is dealing with two blisters, but the Giants are not considering shutting him down. 

“He finds a way to get out there and pitch,” Bochy said. “It’s not a case where we’re pushing it. He wants to pitch.”

Under different circumstances, maybe the Giants would shut Cueto down for a couple of weeks to let these blisters pass. But they can’t afford to lose a second ace, and Cueto doesn’t want to miss any time. Bochy said he hasn’t been told this is something that will bother Cueto all year.